Indeed, research has identified mild spanking as a risk factor for more severe spanking, as well as a dose–response pattern for spanking whereby negative effects are more likely to appear as spanking becomes more frequent and severe. Abusive parents also spank their children at much higher rates than non-abusive parents.
Overall, the empirical case against spanking is strong, and made stronger by the absence of any empirical case in support of spanking. There is not one well designed study I have seen that links spanking to long term positive outcome.
This convergence of empirical results on the negative effects of spanking should not surprise those versed in developmental theory. One would be hard pressed to find any theoretical framework addressing itself to child development from which positive predictions about the effects of spanking can be drawn. Developmental theory by and large would predict that spanking effects – to the extent they are found – will indeed be negative.